Riot po­lice in show of strength af­ter ri­val sup­port­ers throw bot­tles

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport Euro 2020 qualifier - Eng­land faced 10 shots in the first half for only the sec­ond time in 78 matches (v Spain 2018 the other) By Tom Mor­gan in Prague

Prague po­lice ar­rested more than 10 English trou­ble­mak­ers last night dur­ing a fierce show of strength by officers in the city’s pic­turesque Old Town.

Vi­o­lence flared two hours be­fore the Euro 2020 qual­i­fy­ing de­feat by Czech Repub­lic when fans from op­pos­ing na­tions launched bot­tles at each other. To break up the stand-off, officers in ar­moured pro­tec­tion set off a se­ries of smoke grenades and wres­tled at least 10 English­men to the ground.

It was the only ugly in­ci­dent dur­ing largely good-na­tured scenes ahead of the qual­i­fier. How­ever, po­lice said they were pre­pared for a long and busy night as fans re­turned to the city’s all-night drink­ing venues af­ter full-time.

Po­lice at times out­num­bered the largely well-be­haved English fans, who con­gre­gated in two Ir­ish bars on the edge of the cob­ble­stoned Old Town. At least one Eng­land fan was in­jured and taken to hos­pi­tal af­ter clashes at 7pm. An official po­lice state­ment said that 30 ar­rests had been made, in­clud­ing 14 for­eign­ers.

Many Eng­land fans said officers had been too heavy-handed. Nick Free­dom, who was among those drink­ing in the Old Town “hav­ing a beer and a laugh”, wrote on Twit­ter: “Few songs bit loud but not a crime eh. Old bill just marched through in full riot gear with 20 snarling dogs. Went into the boozer too. Bit odd. Show of force maybe but at­mos­phere sud­denly changes. No need.”

Around 6,000 Eng­land sup­port­ers trav­elled to the city and were wel­comed by the lo­cal nightspots, which were pre­dict­ing record­break­ing Fri­day night tak­ings. The official ticket al­lo­ca­tion for Eng­land fans was 3,800.

Po­lice de­ployed spe­cial anti-riot units, he­li­copters and officers on horse­back. Around 11 Bri­tish po­lice officers were also in the city work­ing with their Czech coun­ter­parts.

The “ring of steel” po­lice tac­tics were adopted af­ter the UK’S most se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer with re­spon­si­bil­ity for foot­ball asked Uefa to try to move the qual­i­fier. Deputy Chief Con­sta­ble Mark Roberts said that his re­quest had been re­jected de­spite po­lice and Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion con­cerns that the “high-risk” fix­ture was not be­ing played in mid­week or “at a time when you are not go­ing to en­cour­age peo­ple with a stag-do men­tal­ity to go across and cause prob­lems”.

The FA has been un­der pres­sure to help im­prove fan be­hav­iour af­ter re­cent trou­ble. The fix­ture also co­in­cided with a na­tional day of mourn­ing for the coun­try’s most fa­mous singer, Karel Gott.

Two bars con­firmed their nor­mal menus of ab­sinthe would not be on of­fer. Ab­sinthe has an al­co­hol con­tent of up to 70 per cent.

Arm of the law: A foot­ball fan is led away by po­lice in Prague last night

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